How to Become a Boiler Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a boiler engineer. Research the training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in boiler operation.

Should I Become a Boiler Engineer?

Boiler engineers, also known as boiler operators or stationary engineers, maintain and operate the temperature and ventilation systems for large facilities or plants. They might operate equipment such as steam engines, boilers, turbines, fans and furnaces. They calibrate systems to the facilities' requirements, perform maintenance and troubleshoot or repair defective or worn equipment. Many physical hazards exists for these engineers, and they must carefully follow all safety precautions to remain unharmed.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Apprenticeship; certificate, associate's degree
Degree Field Stationary engineering
Licensure and Certification Some states and municipalities require licensing; professional certifications are available
Experience Amount of necessary experience depends on boiler type and licensing rules; stationary engineer apprenticeships last an average of four years
Key Skills Ability to monitor equipment, critical thinking, problem solving, ability to work with specialized facilities-management software, expertise in pressure gauges, pumps, compressors and welding equipment
Salary (2014) $56,330 yearly (median)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School websites (January 2013), International Union of Operating Engineers, Professional certification websites, O*Net Online

Step 1: Gain Work Experience

Many aspiring boiler operators are trained on the job, though they might complete a formal apprenticeship or training courses offered by unions, vocational schools or community colleges.. They may begin in entry-level assistant or technician positions under the supervision of experienced boiler operators. In many cases, only a high school diploma is required in order to secure an entry-level position.

Success Tip:

  • Ask about training opportunities. Some employers pay for employee training, so an aspiring boiler operator might want to ask prospective employers if they cover costs for attending local training classes.

Step 2: Complete a Formal Training Program

Some would-be boiler engineers complete apprenticeships or postsecondary training programs. In these programs, students learn about heating and ventilation, safety precautions, and technical instrumentation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, apprenticeships usually take four years to complete; they include extensive hands-on training combined with classroom sessions. A few colleges offer stationary engineering programs that lead to a certificate or an associate's degree.

Step 3: Become Licensed

Some states and cities require boiler operators to hold a license before working without supervision. Requirements vary, but may include completing a specific amount of work experience and an exam. State licensing boards can provide aspiring boiler operators with licensing requirements and information needed to file an application.

Step 4: Consider Earning Professional Certification

Several professional organizations offer voluntary certification opportunities for boiler operators, including the National Association of Power Engineers. Standards vary depending on the type of certification, but organizations often require a combination of education and work experience. Applicants also need to pass an exam.

Step 5: Meet Continuing Education Requirements

Some states require boiler operators to complete continuing education classes as a condition of license renewal. Similarly, boiler operators may need to renew their certifications by taking continuing education classes as well. Career advancement is generally by learning to operate and/or becoming certified on larger and varied machinery.

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